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A backpack sprayer is an awesome tool for applying chemical products to turf, trees, and gardens to help kill insects, enrich your soil, and feed your plants.
There are 2 basic types of backpack sprayers you can purchase: manual and battery-powered. As with so many other lawn and garden tools, technology continuously makes strides to improve how they work.
Newer models have better technology that allows for safer and more precise applications. The newer sprayers typically have better controls, leak-proof designs, longer-lasting batteries, and more comfortable padded straps. So if you are using a model that is a few years old, it may be time to upgrade!
Keep reading through this buying guide to read about which one I recommend for most homeowners.
Quick Look: My Favorite Models in 2019:
- My 4 Sons: my choice for the best battery powered backpack sprayer, tons of accessories included, very high-quality
- Chapin 63985: good choice for many homeowners, less expensive than similar competitors
- Jacto PJB-16: very high end commercial product with lots of added features, built like a tank, but comfortable and easy to use
- Strom QA101: pro series, very long lasting, heavy duty hose
- Sprayers Plus 105Ex: very popular brand, comfortable and easy to use
- Field King 190328: the best
budget friendlypump powered model from a reputable company, good value for the money
How I Rated the Backpack Sprayers
It’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed when you start thinking about if you need a backpack sprayer for personal use and how to pick the best one for your needs. After being asked repeatedly what to look for, I decided to figure out which one(s) I think are the best backpack sprayers and put together this buying guide.
I conducted extensive research to provide you with my own honest reviews of the best on the market. I read and compared countless ratings and reviews looked at the specifications of each model and asked myself the following questions.
- What are the pros and cons of each?
- Does it have any unique features worth mentioning?
- What is the cost?
- Does the performance and features of more expensive units warrant their greater price tag?
- Which is more reliable or has a better warranty?
- Does it come with an adequate instruction manual or is there one readily available online?
After I finished all of this investigating, I believe the following features are the most important to consider when looking to buy the best backpack sprayer for the money.
Unlike lawn and garden equipment with more moving parts or motors (aerators, mulchers, leaf vacuums) it seems to be hit or miss as to whether or not backpack sprayers come with a warranty.
Instead, owner’s manuals provide a detailed schematic with all of the part numbers for your model and a troubleshooting section to help you determine what parts need to be replaced or what should be done when problems arise.
From my research, a 1 or 2-year limited warranty is the most generous warranty offered but doesn’t come on all models. Limited warranties cover defects in materials or workmanship on the unit itself but do not cover damage to the equipment due to user error, or natural wear and tear incurred through normal use.
Pressure in the spray tank is what propels the chemical through the hose/wand and out the nozzle. Maintaining consistent pressure means the output remains constant, delivering a uniform application and even results.
A model with high reviews provides even pressure, without dropping low when the spray tank volume decreases, or randomly spiking to deliver more treatment than necessary.
When it comes to deciding how much to pay, think about the needs you are trying to meet and how far you can stretch your budget.
Are you limited by a budget? What size yard and how much lawn do you have that needs sprayed?
If you have a smaller yard and don’t need all the bells and whistles then skip the more expensive options, opting for a hand-operated pump. You’ll expend more energy pressurizing the tank yourself but will still reap the benefits over a handheld tank.
If you have a bigger yard with more space to cover or many weeds to eradicate, a battery-powered sprayer with more features and greater spraying power would be your better choice.
Ease of Use
Working with chemicals already poses some complications that require you be careful to keep yourself (and others) safe. The last thing you want to do is make the job more difficult by purchasing a backpack sprayer that is difficult to use.
You want to be able to easily load and unload the tank, easily operate the pump, and be able to disassemble the unit for cleaning and storage. Comfort is also something to consider.
Look for a unit with adequately padded straps and sufficient lumbar support.
What Is a Backpack Sprayer Used For?
You don’t have to be a professional landscaper to own one! A backpack sprayer is similar to a handheld model in its use and function, but it has the added advantage of larger tank capacity.
It also has the added convenience of being able to comfortably carry the unit on your back, as opposed to dragging a very heavy container around the yard.
There are a variety of uses for your backpack sprayer. It’s essential to know what you can and can’t do to maximize your performance and ensure your safety at all times.
The primary use of a backpack weed sprayer is for applying herbicides in your yard, garden, or around your house. They are extremely effective for killing weeds.
Other uses include spreading pesticides to control pests, formulations for trees, plants, and shrub protection, soil enhancers, and fertilizers.
There are also models available that can also be used for concrete or wood finishing and treatments, and for preventing ice build-up.
Backpack sprayers are generally inexpensive to buy, easy to maintain and operate and are extremely portable. Lightweight backpack models usually weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, depending on their tank size. They are ideal for spot treating hard-to-reach areas, small acreages, and for those jobs when larger, tow-behind units can’t access.
The most popular size on the market is a 4-gallon. The decision of what size to purchase depends mostly on the size of the area you will be spraying. If you need a sprayer with additional capacity, you might be better off with a tow-behind design.
How To Use a Backpack Sprayer
Using your backpack sprayer correctly increases the efficiency the application, keeps you safe, and extends the life of the unit.
Before you even start spraying it’s important to keep in mind the following:
- The actual usage instructions are the same regardless of what liquid you’re using (herbicides, pesticides, water, or liquid nutrients). I strongly advise to not use the same backpack sprayer to apply a non-selective herbicide (RoundUp) and any other product. You do not want to risk cross-contamination.
- Read the product label carefully, and wear the recommended safety gear.
- Make sure to calibrate correctly using water prior to filling the tank.
Here is a great video from Pete at GCI Turf on calibration:
Step 1: Put together the unit if necessary – insert the pump handle into its proper location, attach the spray wand onto your spray gun, and fasten the shoulder straps appropriately.
Step 2: In a separate container, prepare the liquid mix that you’ll be using referred to as a bucket test. Most commonly you will be mixing the pesticide, herbicide, or insecticide with water.
Be certain to read all label instructions when mixing any chemicals and work in an area where potential spills cannot harm plants or get into water sources. Remember these chemicals are concentrated and a little goes a long way, it isn’t necessary to mix them stronger than recommended on the label!
Step 3: After mixing/diluting the chemical, slowly pour the prepared it inside the tank. Make sure not to drip any chemicals on yourself or onto the ground when pouring.
Step 4: Screw the lid tightly on the tank, place the sprayer onto your back, and tighten all straps so that they are secure and fit snugly.
Step 5: Pump the handle 10 to 15 times. Continue pumping every 5 seconds or so in order to keep constant pressure inside the backpack tank. If you don’t do this step, you’ll have to completely prime your sprayer every time the pressure goes out. OR If you have a powered model, make sure the battery is completely charged.
Step 6: You’re ready to go! Simply point your wand wherever you need to spray and pull the trigger. There are many more steps involved in how to spray, but I’m not going to get into that in this article.
Step 7: When you’re done spraying, make sure to clean the inside as well as outside thoroughly, making sure to disassemble it and clean each part.
Finally, reassemble the backpack sprayer and store it or recharge the battery. Never leave plastic sprayers outside in the sunshine, since they can be damaged by ultra-violet radiation.
When working with chemicals, safety is of utmost importance.
- Before using inspect the entire pump for damage, cracked hoses, and leaks.
- Wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) including eye protection, chemical-resistant gloves, clothing to cover exposed skin on your arms and legs, and a respirator if necessary.
- Always mix chemicals according to their label instructions.
- Be mindful when walking, watching where you are stepping to avoid hazards.
- Bend at the knees when wearing the backpack to keep the sprayer in an upright position.
- Spray chemicals away from you and never walk through a freshly sprayed area.
- Quarantine the area off from pets and other people until the application has dried.
- Keep the spray wand low and avoid an application when windy to minimize drift.
- Wash your hands thoroughly when finished, or when taking a break to use the restroom or consuming any food or drink.
Type of Backpack Sprayers
Backpack sprayers vary depending on the type of pump used to dispense the product and the way the pump is powered.
There are 2 basic ways the sprayers work to dispense product: the diaphragm pump, and the piston pump.
The pumps are either battery-powered or run manually.
The diaphragm pump is more durable and easier to use than a piston pump, but it doesn’t produce as much pressure. This pump works by an up and down pumping motion by a diaphragm inside the chemical tank. They are very efficient and can be constructed out of materials to handle even acidic chemical solutions.
On the other hand, a piston pump sprayer typically produces higher pressure, but it is a very sensitive mechanism and should only be used with non-abrasive solutions.
Piston pumps produce a more steady flow rate but are also more expensive and bulky than diaphragm pumps. They also have more maintenance requirements.
Battery backpack sprayers are available in a wide variety of styles, materials, and sizes to suit any capacity or function. They are increasingly more popular for use on golf courses, by pest control operations, lawn care companies, as well as by homeowners.
I highly recommend getting the best battery powered backpack sprayer that you can afford for a number of reasons.
First, battery-powered, motorized sprayers eliminate the need for hand pumping, which can become very tiring. More importantly, though, a battery-powered sprayer puts out a consistent amount of product.
This allows you to get a better application because you don’t have to worry about the pounds per square inch (PSI). PSI determines how much product is sent out – so if your PSI varies, you will have an inconsistent application.
Second, battery-powered units have become less expensive in recent years. With the advancement of battery technology, they last longer and are lighter as well.
Third, manufacturers have started to design battery sprayers from scratch, instead of converting a manually powered model. The newest electric-powered sprayers have better microprocessor control technology and better-designed pumps.
Microprocessors now monitor the battery and can tell when levels are getting too low, and will automatically shut down the unit.
Manual sprayers are still used by many professional turf management companies. They are generally cheaper and require less maintenance.
Also, since you don’t need to worry about losing a charge, they last all day – which is good in a professional setting where you don’t have the ability to recharge a battery during the workday.
Depending on the model, they can be more durable since they don’t contain any electronics.
How to Determine the Right One to Buy
With so many different products on the market (with so many different reviews), how do you determine which one is the best for you?
This section will discuss some of the needs to consider and will help you to decide which to buy.
What are backpack sprayers most suited for?
Handheld sprayers are the entry-level way to spray chemicals in your yard. At the other end of the spectrum are tow-behind sprayers that are pulled behind an ATV or garden tractor.
Smack dab in the middle is backpack sprayers. Deciding which is appropriate for your needs is half the battle.
To begin with, a backpack sprayer is a better choice over a handheld unit if you have a decent-sized property to treat. A backpack sprayer can help with fatigue and stress a user may experience versus a handheld sprayer.
In particular, if you are carrying a large canister in one arm, you will feel it in your arms and shoulders. A backpack sprayer will take away much of the fatigue and strain.
If your property has many impediments (fences, steep slopes, uneven terrain, and trees) or an oddly shaped area (think triangular), then a backpack sprayer will be the right choice for you compared to a tow-behind.
These sprayers are useful for smaller acres (less than an acre), areas that need spot treatments or directed spraying, or places not accessible by tow-behind sprayers.
Another advantage is capacity. A large capacity backpack sprayer will reduce the number of times you need to refill it and thus shorten the time it takes to spray your yard.
What is your budget?
Based upon retail costs, battery sprayers run about twice as much as hand-powered sprayers (but the difference is diminishing), and gas-powered models cost 3-5 times as much as a pump backpack sprayer.
A rechargeable battery sprayer speeds up application times since the user doesn’t have to stop and pump the sprayer. Newer models can last hours without having to be recharged.
Will it be used for personal or commercial applications?
If you plan on using your sprayer for commercial applications, then a hand pump backpack sprayer may be your best option. They are easier to maintain and you don’t have to worry about charging a battery.
A battery-powered backpack model will make quick work of your own property, and the shorter usage times won’t need constant battery charging.
How To Maintain Your Sprayer
You’ve done your research and found what you consider to be the right backpack sprayer. After investing your money you want to maintain your sprayer and keep it working like new.
- First and foremost, read the owner’s manual from cover to cover before operating.
- Inspect all hoses and connections before every use.
- Always use gloves, goggles, personal protective equipment (PPE), and the appropriate clothing when using your sprayer.
- Never use caustics, acids, hot water, or flammable liquids inside the tank.
- Don’t pressurize with an air compressor, since this may create a very dangerous pressure level and parts can even burst, resulting in injury.
- Carry your backpack sprayer by the handle only, and never lift it by the wand extension, shut-off valve, or the hose.
- Don’t use your sprayer near an open flame.
- Do not attempt to alter your sprayer from its original condition.
- If repairs are needed, make sure always to use the correct replacement parts from the original manufacturer.
- Keep out of reach of children and away from pets.
- When not in use, never leave your sprayer out in the sun, since ultraviolet damage can occur.
One of the most critical aspects of maintaining your sprayer is proper cleaning. Never store any kind of chemicals in the tank – always empty it out after each use.
Release all pressure before doing any maintenance, and when the sprayer’s not in use.
Always empty, dry, and clean tank, pump system, extensions, and hose after each use. If you fail to do this, sprayer components may become weakened and could rupture when pressurized. Serious injury may occur from the forcible ejection of parts or a high-pressure discharge of any liquids.
Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Models
There is a perfect backpack sprayer out there for all needs and every budget.
The difference in cost between models depends on what brand you purchase and on a variety of other specs.
Cheaper models typically come with smaller tanks that may have thinner walls and not be constructed with top-notch plastic. The pumps will be diaphragm so the flow rate may not be as consistent and the PSI generated will be lower. More than likely they will also be manual, requiring you to hand pump the tank to pressurize it while you spray.
More expensive models will be manufactured using better, durable components and come with a larger tank and more nozzles.
They will generally have a piston to generate increased PSI and deliver a more consistent flow rate.
Battery powered units will have batteries that last longer and charge quicker than cheaper models. As the cost increases, the units will often come with more comfortable straps and a more ergonomically designed setup.
Replacement parts are also available for purchase instead of replacing the entire unit when something breaks.
Top Rated Brands
- My 4 Sons
- Sprayers Plus
- Field King
How Much Should I Expect to Pay?
The price of a high-quality backpack sprayer varies depending on the size of the spray tank and the included features. Sprayers that I include in my reviews range in cost between $70 and $335, with an average price just over $200.
Best Backpack Sprayer Reviews
1) My 4 Sons M4 4-Gallon Backpack Sprayer
- Pressure dial pump
- Quality testing and final assembly is done in the US
- Label includes very important usage instructions and direct phone number for technical assistance
- Straps come undone
- Small hole opening
The My 4 Sons 4-Gallon Battery Sprayer has a 0 to 60 PSI pressure-dial pump featuring adjustable output, an adjustable brass nozzle, long adjustable stainless steel wand, long-lasting battery, and so much more.
This unit can spray approximately 30 feet in a variable pattern, changing from a fine mist to an extra-long distance jet, dependent upon trigger pressure. A locking trigger improves ergonomics, and an adjustable curved tip stainless steel wand is perfect for on-target spraying.
4nozzles are included: flat tee jet, adjustable brass, double, and fine mist.
This 4–gallon backpack sprayer can spray for eight hours with only one battery charge (it gets a complete AC charge in 8 hours, and features battery-life indicator lights).
The manufacturer says it has a wide mouth opening, but I actually find it a bit small for my liking. It does have a screen filter that keeps all debris and dirt out of the tank which is nice.
This model uses soldered battery terminals instead of screws, and swaged hose connections instead of hose clamps, which allows improved reliability and less leaking. It has a voltage output meter and strong shoulder padded straps are bolted to the sprayer to prevent any dropping or disconnection.
I own this sprayer and it is my go-to product for most applications.
2) Chapin 63985 Lithium Ion Powered Sprayer
- Lightweight and comfortable to use
- Large opening is easy to clean
- Good price when compared to competitors with similar features
- Battery could last longer
- Straps could provide more comfort
I have owned and used the Chapin backpack sprayer (63985) for a few years now and still go back to it quite often. It is lightweight and does a good job putting down a consistent application.
The large opening and translucent tank makes filling a breeze. It also makes cleaning the tank easy.
The battery is decent, but doesn’t last as long as some more expensive models. Also, the straps could use more padding.
3) Jacto PJB-16 4-Gallon Backpack Sprayer
- Extremely high quality materials
- Battery is very easy to remove and charge
- Puts down a consistent spray
Tankis not translucent which makes filling tricky
- Walking speed indicator could be easier to use
The PJB-16 has a very high quality fit and finish component to it. In fact, it feel like the most solid product out of all the ones that I reviewed. I can tell that it will last years and years of heavy use.
There are many things that I really like about this sprayer, but the real selling point for me was the audible walking speed indicator. I thought this would help me put down a consistent application by keeping my walking speed steady. The indication does work well, but I found it to be a little tricky to use and wish that it was louder.
The other drawback to this model is the blue container is hard to see through, so it makes mixing applications tricky. You can’t see the levels as easily as you can with the My 4 Sons.
This is a great choice if you do a lot of heavy duty spraying and need something of commercial quality.
4) Strom QA101 Electric Sprayer
- Pressure regulator for consistent spray
- Brass connections
- Long lasting charge – up to 30 tanks on one charge
- Small opening
*I am waiting to test this unit personally, so I can’t comment too much about it. I have many friends that own one and really like it which is why I added it to my list prior to thorough testing.*
I really like the idea of a pressure regulator and am excited to see how it performs. This will help to apply a consistent flow rate.
I can tell without even using it that the tank opening may be a bit too small for my liking, but that should not hold you back from trying it out for yourself.
5) Sprayers Plus 105Ex
- Electronic components are enclosed to better protect them
- Battery strength indication on the battery so you know when to charge it
- Some customers have complained of leaking issues – although I have not experienced problems
- Bit on the expensive side for the features included
The Sprayers Plus 105EX is one of the more popular sprayers used by DIY yard care enthusiasts. It is simple to use and helps you to put down an even application. It is translucent so seeing liquid levels is easy.
The opening is fairly wide which makes pouring, mixing and cleaning simple.
It has a 20V battery which provides 40 PSI with a long reach to help sprayer trees and taller bushes.
6) Field King Professional Manual Backpack Sprayer
- Patented pump design has 60% less high-wear parts, and can be repaired quickly without tools
- Leakproof pump design
- Metal nozzles last much longer than plastic ones
- Not powered
- Smallish tank opening
The Field King Professional 190328 has a safer Internal No-Leak
Its filtration basket helps to keep larger debris free of the tank while filling, and its easy-access pump allows the user to change the seals in minutes (without using any tools).
This unit is compatible with TeeJet nozzles, in addition to 4 included nozzles – 2 flat fans, a brass adjustable, and a foaming nozzle. It has an internal pressure chamber which can reach 150 PSI (which is 65% greater than other diaphragm pump backpacks).
A built-in agitator mixes powders, liquids, and water-soluble solutions – which is very convenient. Its internal paddles keep all chemicals mixed and ready for use.
The Field King Professional pump backpack sprayer has a reversible handle for either right or left-handed use, a one-way valve that prevents spillage if the tank’s inverted, and a threaded bolt that provides a more secure no-slack handle attachment (which is greatly superior to traditional cotter pins used by competing products).
Finally, its wand storage and carry handle are integrated.
Question: What should I use to clean out my backpack sprayer?
Answer: You should use plenty of water (warm or hot water is best), dish detergent, and a small bristle brush or toothbrush to clean out your backpack sprayer. Remove as much product – in an appropriate manner – as possible.
Add about ¼ cup of dish detergent to the tank, fill with water, and let sit for about an hour. Dump the soapy water and refill with hot water again, running it through the wand and spray nozzle. Scrub the filter screen with the bristle brush and rinse off the shut off valve for the sprayer.
Allow to dry thoroughly before storing.
Question: How should I store my backpack sprayer?
Answer: How you store your backpack sprayer depends on the length of time between uses. If you will only be storing it for a few hours until the next use, there is no need to clean it out – unless you are changing the application of course.
If storing the sprayer for an extended length of time follow the instructions for cleaning it out and then store out of the direct sunlight. Storing it with chemicals inside it can cause corrosion; UV light can cause weakening of the plastic components.
Question: How many square feet does a 4-gallon backpack sprayer cover?
Answer: How many square feet a 4-gallon backpack sprayer covers depends on the sprayer calibration. Calibrations are set to deliver the volume desired in terms of gallons per 1,000 square feet.
For most applications, typical spray rates are 1.5-gallons, 2-gallons, or 3-gallons per 1,000 square feet. At the 1.5-gallons per 1,000 square feet rate, a 4-gallon sprayer would cover 2,666 square feet; at the 2-gallons per 1,000 square feet rate, a 4-gallon sprayer would cover 2,000 square feet; at the 3-gallons per 1,000 square feet rate, a 4-gallon sprayer would cover 1,333 square feet.
Question: How big of a sprayer do I need?
Answer: How big of a sprayer you need depends on the size of your yard or garden and the square footage you are covering. For most residential homeowners, a backpack sprayer with a tank volume of 2 to 4-gallons should be sufficient.
Smaller tanks will require mixing more chemicals to complete the entire application; larger tanks become heavy and cumbersome to carry on your back.
Question: Can I use herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers in the same sprayer?
Answer: Yes, you can use most herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers in the same sprayer if you ensure the entire system is cleaned thoroughly after each use to prevent cross-contamination. This prevents residues from mixing with the new product application.
Care should be taken though when using non-selective herbicides as cross-contamination is a serious problem if the sprayer isn’t cleaned really well.
Question: Do I need a different sprayer for Roundup?
Answer: It is recommended you have a separate sprayer specifically used for Roundup, or any other non-selective herbicides. This prevents cross-contamination of any product residue from accidentally being included in other spray applications. If any residues are still in the tank, spray wand, or nozzle it can result in unintentional damage or killing of plants, grass, trees, etc.
Question: What type of application is a backpack sprayer best used for?
Answer: A backpack sprayer is best used by homeowners for chemical applications in small to medium-sized yards, flowerbeds, and gardens, and in areas a pull-behind sprayer cannot easily access. It can be used for applying a variety of chemicals: herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers as well as soil enhancers and concrete and wood finishing.
All of the above backpack sprayers are quality products, so it is hard for me to say which one is “best”.
From the models I have tested, my favorite is the M4 from My 4 Sons because of all the features you get for the money.
I also really like the Jacto, but it is a bit expensive, putting it out of budget for some.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly, hand-operated model, be sure to check out the Field King 190328. Even though it has a cheaper price tag it’s still a great product.
Spraying your yard is addicting and lots of fun if you have the right equipment.
Please leave a comment below if you need further help!